In the Bhagavad Gita, India’s magnificent scripture, there’s a mystical verse, the meaning of which is not easily understood. Lord Krishna, speaking to his disciple Arjuna, says, “That which is night for the unenlightened is day for the yogi. And that which is day for ordinary people is night for the yogi-seer.”
These words present us with a puzzle, and we have to look beneath their surface to solve it. Krishna is saying that what may seem real to us – we who see the world mainly with our limited senses – becomes unreal at a higher level of consciousness.
As you and I move through our days, we rely on our conscious mind to analyze and navigate the course of what we encounter. The yogi, however, has little interest in such mental or physical gymnastics. He (or she) looks to the “inner reality” for the guidance and answers needed.
Well, that’s interesting, but is it practical for people like you and me? Is it even possible? You and I live in a world that demands our daily attention and our outward activity if we expect to sustain ourselves. We are not so advanced that we can ignore the needs of our bodies, the need to put food on the table for ourselves and our families, the need to provide for the education and welfare of our children. We have responsibilities. Night and day for us are busy times of striving to make ends meet.
Behind closed eyes, the yogi sees light. Does he lose his worldly bearings? On the contrary, he is able to relate effectively to every facet of his life, both inward and outward, because nothing pulls him out of his superconscious knowing what this life is about. It’s about accepting and loving all that is – everything – as coming from God.
Krishna, in the next verse, then tells us what we have to do to rise above the ordinary and into the yogi’s realm. “Contentment is his who, like the vast ocean, absorbs into himself all rivers of desire.”
Acting on this awareness is plainly what we find most difficult, because all of our habits, attachments and desires are certain to conspire against us, distracting us from the inward, meditative process that is the way forward. Yogas chitta vritti nirodh (from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), the neutralization of the vortices of our worldly likes and dislikes, remains incomplete.
Well, that’s a bit depressing. What about all those movies we like, our favorite foods and the pleasures of getting away on vacation? Can’t we be content to be contented just part of the time? What’s wrong with that?
Well, there’s nothing wrong with that except for what follows: some measure of letdown, or worse, when the temporary pleasure we experience comes to its finite end, as it must.
I grant you, we’ve been highly conditioned to believe that our worldly pursuits are the best means to our happiness. But Krishna repeatedly reminds us not to be fooled by that kind of thinking. Think not to get, but to give. Think not to possess, but to enjoy and let go. It’s all a dance of the four A’s: Attitude, Attunement, Acceptance and Action.
We are charged with learning to discriminate between what is spiritually progressive and what isn’t. “Resolutely I quell my inclinations that my mind be open to the wisdom-guidance of my soul.” That spot-on affirmation, offered by Swami Kriyananda, is ideal for calling upon our discriminative powers.
The path to becoming a yogi is a lot about neti, neti: not this, not that. Can we still enjoy the things of this earth? Yes, of course, and we should, but with the love of God, with discrimination, with right attitude and non-attachment.
Therein lies the key to entering the yogi’s luminous “inner reality.” It’s the key to finding contentment in every circumstance. And it’s the key to knowing that what we outwardly see as day is a dream, a dream that cannot begin to compare with the Light that shines like a thousand suns behind the closed eyes of one whose ultimate desire is to realize God.